Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How Yoga Helped Me Get Over Myself

I’ve been practicing yoga for about a year now. My reasons for trying it were very simple—the chronic lower back pain I’d been living with on and off for about 10 years had reached new levels. At times it would get so bad, I couldn’t stand up straight. (Another bonus was that I grapple with fits of anxiety and depression, and I heard yoga could help with that, but my back issues were the primary reason—anything else was just gravy.) After months of debating about it, I finally decided to just do it. I talked my cousin into trying a class with me at the local Y, and off we went.

I’m certainly not the first—or even the millionth!—person to try yoga, but I had no idea that I would get so much from it.

My attendance was sporadic at first—going once a week, then missing a few weeks, you get the idea. But once I made it part of my regular weekly schedule, something clicked.  I now go to class twice a week (and have a second yoga teacher on my radar—I really should attend one of her classes sometime soon…) and will only miss because of the most dire circumstances. It's absolutely become a huge part of my life.

I’ve gotten so much out of the practice. It’s helped me keep my anxiety in check (although I still have more moments of it than I care to), and I’ve gotten much better at living in the present—so much, in fact, that I kind of lost track of time around the holidays because I was so busy taking it one day at a time. 

  • Focus. I never thought of myself as a control freak, but I’ve come to realize that yes, I do like to be the driver in certain situations, and I have a very deep-rooted fear of the unknown.  I’ve managed to let go of some of that, and with yoga I’ve been able to focus on what I can control right now—maybe it’s simply how long I can hold a pose, how well I can balance, or, in a broader sense, I can focus on my tasks at hand and tackle things one at a time.  (I might still jump around from task to task, but overall I’ve gotten better at feeling less scattered).I find that I'm much more thorough and invested in what I'm doing, too.

  • Prioritizing. Since I've gotten better at focusing, I think I've also gotten better at putting that focus in a particular order. I still keep an old school "to do" list on a piece of paper (which I'd be lost without), so that hasn't changed. I guess the way I approach things has changed--I feel calmer and more present when I do something, rather than just scrambling around like a maniac trying to tackle One More Thing. I've always been a good long-term planner, but I'm getting better at tackling the smaller, everyday things, too.
  • Staying "open". I’m a big believer in the subconscious—some of my better story ideas have come to me when I wasn’t actively brainstorming ideas, or they literally pop into my head out of nowhere.  I’ve gotten better at channeling some of that, while still leaving space for “out of the blue” thoughts to appear.
  • Challenging myself.   Some might say my comfort zone is pretty small, but I’ll occasionally do something pretty risky. Quitting my job to pursue writing? Yeah—that’d be right up near the top of the list! Actually making a living from writing thanks to constant outreach to editors and potential clients? Yeah—that’s not easy, either. Once I got over that, I hit a bit of a plateau, but 2013 is bringing some major challenges. I’m teaching a college course I’ve never taught before, there are some really interesting job opportunities swirling around that sound both thrilling and terrifying, and oh yes—I’m getting married! Talk about challenging myself! I don’t think I would have taken on any of this without that one huge leap—I showed myself that I can give myself a major shake-up and still make it through—and yoga just helps me keep all of it balanced.  So, try a new pose in class? Sure—I may not be able to do it tonight, but I’ll get there!

 What about you? What do you do to keep yourself in check?

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